Four lionesses are all that remain of the once mighty Sparta Pride. This pride that numbered over twenty lions a little over a decade ago, is now at a stage where another death of one of the adults could spell disaster.
It is the natural order of things in the bush, as males disperse, youngsters are killed and lionesses fall under the hooves of buffalo in iconic battles that make the night echo with roars and bellows. A steady attrition of numbers towards a smaller, more stable pride was always likely in the Sabi Sands, where multiple prides and coalitions vie for prime territories.
It is time, however, for the pride to rise again.
With the Southern or Selati Pride, the largest in the reserve, making repeated incursions onto Sparta territory from the South and the possibility of all the members of the Tsalala Pride in the North reuniting to form a pride of 9, the Sparta pride is under increasing pressure.
Fortunately, the Majingilane coalition continues to rule with an iron fist and looks unlikely to be de-throned anytime soon. This is good news for the cubs they have sired, as the stability of the dominant males in an area is crucial for cub survival. And it is only through the survival of their current cubs that the Sparta Pride can hope to grow in numbers and get back to its former size.
It was with great elation that we found the pride a few mornings ago, and discovered that with them were two of their youngest cubs, that had only been seen once before on Londolozi territory, a few days after they were born.
These two cubs bring the number of little ones in the pride to 8. The oldest litter of three are roughly 6 months old. Two new litters – one of 3 cubs and one of 2 – are still very small, probably no more than two months old. We suspect as well that the fourth lioness in the pride is also heavily pregnant and will give birth very soon, if she has not done so already.
It remains to be seen how many will be in her litter, but it will likely be at least two, which will bring the total number of cubs to ten.
Lionesses remain with the pride into which they are born while young males are forced out by their fathers, so the more females in these new litters the better. More females means more hunting success in later years, which means more food for the pride, higher cubs survival, and further potential for pride growth.
No matter what the future holds for this new generation of Londolozi’s lions, we look forward to spending time with them out in the bush, following their progress as they face the daunting task of survival.
Written by: James Tyrrell
Filmed by: Helen Young and Enoch Mkhanzi